How do you treat male breast cancer

Can Men Get Breast Cancer?

Every year around 750 men in Germany develop breast cancer. That's the scientific name for breast cancer. For comparison: around 70,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. It is the most common cancer in women of almost all ages.

Men can develop breast cancer at any age, too, but the average is around 71 years. They are often diagnosed at a late stage. There are two main reasons for this: Firstly, many men cannot imagine that they have breast cancer and therefore do not go to the doctor directly if there are changes in the breast area. Second, there are no breast cancer screening programs for men. This is different for women: Mammography screening is a statutory early detection program in which the mammary gland is x-rayed. Doctors can use this examination to identify very small tumors and lumps that cannot be felt beforehand.

BRCA mutation is another medical term for breast cancer. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes. They exercise control mechanisms in cell growth and cell division and thus prevent the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells. If the genes change, one speaks, for example, of BRCA2 mutations. Because of them, the genes lose their ability to control. As a result, women may be at increased risk of breast or ovarian cancer. If men have such a genetic defect, it often leads to breast or prostate cancer.

How does breast cancer develop in men?

Much like women, breast cancer in men often starts in the milk ducts. Up to puberty, the structure of the breast in boys and girls is almost identical. Only the female sex hormones ensure further growth of the glandular tissue, the connective and adipose tissue and the milk ducts in girls. This growth does not usually occur in boys, but the male breast also has milk ducts. This is where 80 percent of all breast cancers develop, as these cells are particularly susceptible to it. Because the milk ducts are less pronounced in men than in women, the disease occurs comparatively rarely in them.

It is also known: patients with breast cancer have an increased level of estrogen. The growth and development of the tumor depends on the hormone estrogen. Men also have this in smaller quantities. In your body, like in a woman's body, it is produced with the help of the enzyme aromatistase. The male body produces estrogen in the testes, fat cells, and the adrenal gland.

It is not always possible to determine medically what the exact cause of the cancer is. However, some factors for the development in men are known:

  • General Age: As you get older, the risk of this disease increases.
  • Hormone imbalance: If the male body produces more female sex hormones than males, this is a risk factor for a possible disease.
  • Genetic factors: Men from families with a hereditary risk of breast cancer and men with an inherited chromosomal disorder, Klinefelter syndrome, are at higher risk. Men affected by this have one more X chromosome than others (i.e. 47, XXY instead of the usual 46 XY).
  • Pre-existing conditions: diabetes mellitus, prostate cancer, liver disease, hyperthyroidism and testicular inflammation can, but do not have to be, promoting.
  • Radioactive radiation: It can be a risk factor for breast cancer if the radiation directly affects the breast tissue. This is the case, for example, with radiation treatment of the upper body due to a previous cancer.
  • Lifestyle can be another risk factor: obesity (high body mass index), a lot of alcohol consumption, smoking and little exercise can all play a role.

What signs can those affected see for themselves?

A one-sided, hard, usually painless lump is an important sign of breast cancer. The patient feels a "bump" in the area of ​​the nipple.

Other signs are:

  • Scabs or small sores on the nipple that won't heal.
  • The nipple pulls inwards.
  • Clear, purulent, or bloody discharge from the nipple.
  • swollen lymph nodes in the armpit

Important: But not every change in the breast area is an indication of cancer. Hormonal changes in adolescents and older men can cause bilateral swelling, which is benign. Benign connective tissue growths can develop for the same reason. The changes that can be felt on one side are not necessarily signs of a malignant tumor. A painful inflammation of the wart can sometimes result from rubbing against clothing. If clothing is constantly irritating in connection with sweat, this is called "runner's" or "jogger's nipple". Nevertheless: If there are any changes, the patient should definitely go to the family doctor's practice to clarify the symptoms.

How does the doctor diagnose breast cancer?

Anyone who experiences symptoms should not postpone a visit to the doctor. The family doctor, as well as a gynecologist and a urologist, offer specialist help. If you want, you can also go directly to a special treatment center for breast cancer.

There is a multi-stage procedure for making a diagnosis: In order to diagnose breast cancer, the doctor often uses imaging techniques in addition to a palpation examination. This includes the ultrasound examination as well as the mammography of the breast and the surrounding lymph vessels. Since the breast tissue of most men is much denser than that of women, the doctor often also takes a tissue sample from the breast with a fine needle. This procedure is called a biopsy. It is usually carried out on an outpatient basis with a local anesthetic.

If breast cancer is indeed present, a detailed examination of the removed tissue is carried out to determine whether the changes are benign or malignant. If it is a malignant tumor, it is checked whether it has already metastasized in bones, lymph nodes and / or other organs. In particular, an ultrasound examination of the liver, a computed tomography of the lungs and liver and a bone scintigraphy come into question as diagnostic methods. In bone scintigraphy, the patient is injected with a radioactively marked substance that accumulates in bone regions with increased metabolism. In the image of the skeleton created by the substance's own radiation, bone tumors or metastases, which have a more active metabolism than healthy bone tissue, can be detected in the bones.

What types of treatment are there?

The treatment for male breast cancer is the same as for women with the same diagnosis.

  • Surgery: The carcinoma and adjacent lymph nodes are removed. Depending on how the cancer has spread, the entire body of the breast, including the nipple, may also be removed. This is usually followed by further treatment.
  • Radiotherapy: The radiation damages the tumor cells so that they die. It's a local therapy. This means that the rays only have a targeted effect where they actually hit. Radiation therapy is said to reduce the risk of relapse.
  • Hormone therapy: Often the cancer grows in men depending on the female sex hormones. Therefore, in these cases, anti-hormone therapy is used, in which the female sex hormone is, so to speak, withheld from the tumor. This lowers the risk of relapse.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is a drug treatment. It damages the tumor cells so that they can no longer divide and die. Such therapy is usually administered as an infusion in several cycles over a period of a few weeks. As a result, it works throughout the body. The active ingredients can also reach small tumors that are not yet detectable on the imaging process. Damage to the body's own healthy cells, such as blood cells or hair root cells, is alleviated by taking breaks between treatment cycles.
  • Antibody Therapy: Antibody therapy is a form of immunotherapy. It is a therapy in which artificially produced antibodies are used specifically against the tumor cells. The antibodies prevent growth signals from being sent to the tumor cell.

What are the chances of recovery?

The chances of a cure are good if the cancer is detected early. Therefore, the recommendation for men and women is to palpate the breast and especially the warts regularly. If you notice a change, it is advisable to visit a gynecological practice or family doctor. It is best for those affected to seek treatment at a certified breast cancer center. This is a facility that specializes in the therapy of this disease, meets high quality requirements and can prove this with a certificate. There are such centers in Germany in all federal states.

The topic of breast cancer is often perceived by the public as a purely women's problem. Especially since it is also the most common form of cancer in women. It is less well known that men also get it. Most men do not know that the existing mammary gland tissue - just like in women - can degenerate. This is one of the reasons why they usually seek medical advice too late with a breast condition. And why breast cancer is usually diagnosed later in men than in women. It is therefore particularly important to watch out for symptoms, act early on signs and see a doctor.

More information on breast cancer

You can find more information about the disease in the disease lexicon.